PACs Guide Elk Country Mission
More than 4,600 habitat projects have been vetted by wildlife experts on PACs, all to better wildlife habitat and management
By Tom Toman, RMEF Director of Science and Planning
Once the banquet lights go down and the tally of funds raised for elk country starts to go up, following your hard work as a volunteer can be difficult at some organizations. But RMEF is committed to spending about 50 percent of the funds you worked to raise on projects in your backyard.
One way we do this is through Project Advisory Committees, also known as PACs.
The PAC process is how the RMEF evaluates project proposals for habitat stewardship grants. The RMEF PACs are now in 28 states and have funded more than 4,600 projects operating collectively since beginning in 1986. Those projects have resulted in more than 4.71 million acres of habitat enhancement.
Why isn’t a program that successful put into place in every state across the country? Because PAC membership comes with a special requirement—an RMEF PAC state must have wild free-ranging elk managed by the state wildlife agency under a state elk plan. RMEF wants to fund projects that are consistent with the state wildlife agency elk plan and the land management plans for the state and federal agencies that manage occupied elk habitat.
What does a PAC look like?
The RMEF has always strived to make science-based decisions when it comes to habitat enhancement, wildlife management and research projects. The make-up of the PAC helps ensure that.
The core PAC membership include a wildlife biologist from the state wildlife agency, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, a wildlife professor from a state university, the RMEF state chair (the lead volunteer in the state) and the RMEF regional director who chairs the meeting. (In some states, other agencies with land management authority where elk live also are invited to be on the PAC.) Each agency selects their own representatives based on their knowledge of wildlife habitats, agency policy, budgets and philosophy, and their ability to effectively carry out the responsibilities as members of the PAC.
What does a PAC do?
The PAC process has proven to be a very effective tool to evaluate and select projects. The discussion between the agency experts and the RMEF staff and volunteers ensures that only the best of projects move forward.
This is done through a process of review that starts long before the PAC convenes at the table. Projects are first submitted to an agency representative and, after a review to ensure they are consistent with the agency’s plans, they are forwarded to the RMEF regional director who distributes them to all the PAC members several weeks before the meeting. This allows each PAC member time to review the projects and, if needed, contact the project submitter to ask questions that help clarify the details.
At the PAC meeting, each project is discussed in detail, evaluating its merits, the direct benefits to elk, what other wildlife will benefit from the project, the scale of the project and whether or not it is a standalone project or part of a long-term, multi-year effort.
The PAC prioritizes projects based on their merit and recommends which projects are forwarded to RMEF’s National Project Review Committee (NPRC) for final approval. The NPRC is made up of the Elk Foundation vice presidents of Lands and Conservation, Operations, Marketing and Fundraising Services and the Lands and Conservation Information Program Manager. Through this system, the PACs first address the biology of the projects and the NPRC ensures the projects are consistent with RMEF policy and values.
PACs watch over projects too
During PAC meetings, individual agency reps also update the committee on the status of recently funded projects and whether or not they have been successfully completed.
After the meeting the agency reps contact the unsuccessful applicants from their agency with comments as to why their projects were not funded, offering suggestions to improve their applications in future years.
There are a few costs for which RMEF will not provide grant funding, and the PAC watches out for that, too. The RMEF will not fund more than 50 percent of the project implementation costs, projects must have at least a one-to-one funding match ratio, and RMEF will not pay for administrative, overhead or indirect costs of the agency for preparing, implementing or administering the project.
RMEF also does not provide funding for capital facilities (we do not fund bricks and mortar projects) and capital equipment (the only exception is radio collars, receivers and antennas), inventory, mapping or planning efforts. We see these as agency responsibilities.
The Elk Foundation also does not pay for salaries of permanent positions for agencies, organizations or institutions. But once the inventory, planning and staffing is completed, we are more than willing to contribute to the cost of project implementation.